What does tomorrow look like post Covid-19?

How can we become better ancestors to our future generations? Human beings are cognitively not good at thinking about the long-term. That is why futurists help decision makers connect with the future emotionally to develop empathy in order to kick-start better decisions today, and also to stay ahead.

Year 2020:
Raza has been working at a reputable private enterprise for the last four years. He was very excited to get the much-awaited promotion to be an Assistant Manager for the technology division. Two weeks into his new role, the first case of Covid-19 was reported in his city. A couple of weeks later, the government announced a lockdown. He had planned a retreat for his new team for work planning and team building, and decided to postpone it for a month as he anticipated the lockdown to be over by then. 

 

Year 2021:
It’s April 2021. A year has passed. Raza now goes to the office two days a week, after seven months of completely working remotely. He had to translate all his coordination and management work into digital components. He introduced a system of informal chats with colleagues to get to know them, do an emotional check-in, and enjoy virtual quarterly lunches. Last year was a challenge. 63 percent of his colleagues did not have office programs installed in their personal computers. 38 percent did not own compatible computers. 23 percent shared tech devices. 33 percent did not have consistently stable internet. 11 percent had no internet at all. 

Instant City: Living Air-Tight. Beomki Lee and Chang Kyu Lee

For these challenges, his firm has had to acquire and distribute new devices, buy expanded connectivity packages and facilitate flexible hours, but with lack of infrastructure, nothing could be done to provide access or stability of access where that lacked. The overall performance markers fell short, but the management is happy to still be in the market when many businesses had to do major cuts. The psychological and social toll these times took on people presented itself as a bigger challenge. Mental health awareness and hybrid working modalities are still new and being explored through testing and iterating.

Year 2025:
Fahd is a consultant at the Simulations Policy wing of the government. His job is to use science fiction and gamification to create simulations based on real-time qualitative data for the government to make decisions on. A few years ago, he could not have thought of having a discussion on simulation projected futures work. Now, major universities are offering this program and all provincial governments have dedicated teams for this work. Policy advocacy and planning reforms have come a long way from internal facing to now being completely participatory. Citizens can project their asks, wants and problems as experiential journeys on the dedicated public portal, that calculates and visualizes how each change, or lack of it will age across multiple sectors. 

Verner Panton’s futuristic Visiona 2 exhibition (1970) was staged on a boat docked on the Rhine. The immersive environment collapsed the differences between wall and floor, rendering every fuzz-textured surface perfect for reclining. That, combined with the bright colored lights marking different zones, gave the space a hedonistic air. Courtesy Panton Design, Basel

 

Year 2026:
In 2019, Hina took maternity leave. She was anxious about coming back to work with the responsibility of being a new mother. Two weeks before her rejoining, the entire company shifted to remote working in response to Covid-19. Working from home has been a blessing for her. She can manage taking care of her baby, home chores, and work deadlines. She looks back to think how a pandemic proved helpful to make a case in front of her boss to allow her flexible hours and remote working. She now goes to the office only as and when needed. She has a digital notebook that manages all her tasks, meetings, reviews, and documents. It allows access to review her team's ongoing and completed work. She can request meetings in Pods anywhere in the city through her company’s membership. These portable office desks were developed back in 2021 as the new way of working. Pods are bubble-shaped spaces spread across the country. Each is equipped with digital devices, connectivity, and a basic office desk and chair. The furniture is made of synthetic micro-polymers instead of fabric for hygiene purposes. Every time a member enters, the Pod self sanitizes. They vary in capacity from one person to four people. Sometimes, Hina wonders how her office has changed from a five story building of open plan, to 150sq floating Pods.

 

Year 2027: 
After wrapping up a full day of work, Murtaza is closing his x2f kiosk. Over the last two years, he has opened 11 kiosks in Islamabad. It is a hybrid retail model where you walk in the kiosk, pick items through virtual reality (grocery, dairy, wearables, medicine, tea/coffee), check them through simulations, get access to your bank account through eye scanner, and make payment. The customer is completely touch-free.

The Air-ship. William Heath Robinson.


On the way out, you can pick your shopping from any of 50 shoots across the city or get it delivered to your home. Murtaza hardly passed grade five and had no access to connectivity till 2020. Life of a daily wager got difficult during lockdowns, so he had to be experimental. He obtained digital literacy through a government skill-building program, and today, manages a successful chain with nearly 60 employees.

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Stories by: Javeria Masood, Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Innovation-AccLab Pakistan

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